- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2012

Two years after congressional Democrats squeezed out enough votes to pass President Obama’s health care overhaul, confusion still reigns among the states, insurers and average Americans struggling to comply with the hundreds of pages in the law.

Some states say they can’t move forward until the government issues more rules to clarify exactly what kinds of services need to be covered, while other states dispute that, saying enough information is available to plow ahead.

Insurance companies are biting their nails over how the requirements will affect their bottom lines.

Business owners say they can’t begin to comply with the law because it is too baffling. “Most of ‘em don’t have a clue what’s fixin’ to happen,” said Grady Payne, owner of a business based in Fort Worth, Texas.

Analysts, however, say many questions have been answered and that businesses should invest the time to find the answers.

** FILE ** President Obama signs the health care bill at the White House in Washington on March 23, 2010. (Associated Press)
** FILE ** President Obama signs the health care bill at the ... more >

Add to that the legal uncertainty. The Supreme Court is slated to hear oral arguments over the law next week, Republican presidential candidates are vowing to repeal or waive the law, and some policymakers are asking for a pause.

“I think it would make an awful lot of sense to say, ‘Let’s wait a minute, let’s take a breath,’” said Bill Hazel, the secretary of health and human resources in Virginia. “Let’s get through this Supreme Court decision, let’s get through the elections and then reconsider this.”

(Corrected paragraph:) The legislation passed by a 219-212 vote in the House and a 60-39 vote in the Senate, without a single Republican yes vote. The bill cleared Congress on March 21, 2010, and Mr. Obama signed it into law two days later in a ceremony at the White House.

“I’m confident that you will like what you see: a common-sense approach that maintains the private insurance system but makes it work for everybody, makes it work not just for the insurance companies, but makes it work for you,” Mr. Obama said at the time.

Ever since — and especially this week — the Obama administration and congressional Democrats have touted the immediate benefits: mandated coverage for employees’ children up to age 26, a ban on limiting lifetime benefits and drug discounts for seniors.

But two years after the president signed the Affordable Care Act, the law remains contentious. An ABC/Washington Post poll released Monday found that Americans oppose the law by 52 percent to 41 percent.

Waiting on the administration

“There are still a lot of outstanding questions because we’re still waiting for a lot of the regulations,” said Robert Zirkelbach, a spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, the insurance industry’s trade association.

The association hasn’t seen the final rules on whether the administration will consider costs when deciding what kinds of services insurers will be required to cover as essential benefits.

The bewilderment is readily apparent among business owners, who recite long lists of worries.

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